Genachowski Faces High Expectations at FCC Helm

Mar 4, 2009  •  Post A Comment

As the welcomes roll in for Julius Genachowski, whom President Obama formally announced Tuesday as his nominee for FCC chairman, so are hints of some of the challenges and changes he could bring.
Expectations for change from Mr. Genachowski quickly started to surface on issues ranging from indecency to keeping Internet providers from giving favored treatment to some content providers, aka net neutrality.
“There is no question that Julius Genachowski has the experience and credentials to successfully reinvigorate the FCC as chair,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who will preside over Mr. Genachowski’s confirmation hearing, in suggesting the FCC needed a revamp. The confirmation hearing has yet to be scheduled.
“I commend President Obama for nominating someone who is completely committed to making technology accessible to all Americans, and I look forward to working with him on the many telecommunications challenges that the commission and the committee will face in the months and years ahead,” Sen. Rockefeller said.
The biggest change Mr. Genachowski is expected to bring is a more proactive approach to ensuring that broadcasters meet local public-interest obligations. He’s also expected to institute more questioning of media ownership combinations and more efforts to ensure diversity of broadcast ownership than former chairman Kevin Martin.
Mr. Genachowski also is expected to be far less confrontive to the cable industry than was Mr. Martin, who was upset that cable wouldn’t offer programming a la carte. He’s also expected to conduct business in a more open manner than Mr. Martin, who was criticized for using a small group of FCC officials to make decisions.
Statements after the announcements indicated some of the changes expected.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president-CEO of the Media Access Project, a public interest law firm that handles FCC matters, called Mr. Genachowski “one of the best-qualified appointees ever named to head the FCC.”
“We look forward to having a more transparently operating FCC, which will promote the free flow of information on all electronic media,” Mr. Schwartzman said.
“The fact that Julius is a close confidant of the president is especially important, as it demonstrates the high priority that this administration will place on developing proactive media and telecommunications policy,” he added.
Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, and a friend of Mr. Genachowski for 15 years, called the choice outstanding and noted the new chairman was the architect of the Obama campaign’s Technology and Innovation Plan.
“It is clear that he understands the importance of open networks and a regulatory environment that promotes innovation and competition to a robust democracy and a healthy economy,” she said.
“I believe that in his new role, Julius will work to ensure that the FCC meets its legal obligation to protect the ‘public interest, convenience and necessity’ and will develop a principled, strategic policy agenda that promotes openness, free speech, competition, innovation, access, economic growth and consumer welfare.
“Julius also understands that in a democracy, government must be transparent and give the people the tools to participate actively. Thus, I am certain that he will seek to restore public confidence in an agency that has had a long history of opaqueness, industry capture and a lack of data-driven policymaking. His collegial management style will also help rebuild morale at the agency,” Ms. Sohn said.
The Parents Television Council, which has been concerned about broadcast decency, congratulated Mr. Genachowski on his nomination. However, it also urged members of the Senate Commerce Committee to ask “about his commitment to enforce federal broadcast decency law and to resolve the tens of thousands of indecency complaints received by the commission.” There have been suggestions that a Democratic FCC would look more to technology to deal with decency issues and less to enforcement actions.
“We call on the FCC to focus squarely on its legal obligation to uphold broadcast decency standards, despite the fact that the TV networks seem determined to ignore the written law, the intent of Congress and the will of the American people at every turn,” said PTC President Tim Winter.


  1. You are kidding right? He wants to review local station commitments, when he has no knowledge ,at all, of what it atkes to operate a station in these tough times. Still, stations provide more localism and value in the “public necessity” than any other medium, cable , or mobile. What will he want to reinstate ascertainments and more content review.
    He’s a regulator, not an operator.

  2. Well, if the new man on the job decides to impose his idea on local programming decisions, he should be reminded that diversity of media is no longer an issue – survival of free broadcast local media IS. ONE programm director is more than enough per station – if each station has to become “all things to all men” it will quickly lose its audience and opportunity to develop it’s unique personality amoung it’s competition in broadcast, cable, internet and newspapers.
    If it ultimately fails to serve the public (on its own) it derserves to go down. No additional advice, controls, interference or suggestions from Washington is needed or appreciated. Government needs to desperately fix itself, and avoid touching the last free broadcasting industry.

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